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I have to write it in all-caps, because somehow our current level of progress feels big

Right now, Kara and I are living in a complete wreck of a home. In all our lives together, our place has never been this disheveled. And it is driving me insane. But the mess serves a purpose. It's actually more organized than it seems.

For starters, one whole room of our home is currently dedicated to things that are going into the big garage sale we're having on Saturday, 13 June. If you're in the Quail Valley neighborhood in Missouri City, you should swing by. 

The garage sale pile is big. Scary big. And it's kind of a mess. We have piles of old memories and things we've held on to for years, which makes it kind of a sad room to visit. 

And it isn't entirely in that room, by the way. On Monday I spent the entire day going through the garage and sorting out what stays and what goes. I got that space organized with tables (also for sale) piled with items for people to purchase. Again—things I've held onto for years. Things that meant something to me, at various points in time. 

Everything must go. 

And that's where the heartache starts to kick in. And it's weird. 

What is it about all of this junk that makes me feel like I'm giving away parts of myself? Why do I feel like I'm losing something with every old scrap of useless stuff I toss into a box?

Yesterday I took three garbage bags to Goodwill. They were filled with old clothes, old shoes, old belts—some of these things I've owned since I was in 8th grade. Maybe younger. A lot of it was stuff I haven't worn in decades, in some cases. But there it was, taking up space in both my closet and my life.

Three. Garbage. Bags. 

That should have been my first clue, actually—the fact that I was stuffing these things into garbage bags to make them easier to get rid of. 

I'm glad they'll go to people who may need them, but just thinking about some of that stuff now is making my heart feel kind of panicky. That stuff was mine. It belonged to me. It was part of me!

The same thing happened when I sold all of my paperbacks—many of which I have owned since I was seven or eight years old. All those memories. All those hours spent reading and living in other worlds. I got maybe $50 for it all. And then we spent that on boxes. 

In the garage, I sifted through tons of junk—projects I thought I'd eventually get to, materials I thought I could use. I ended up putting half of the contents of my garage on tables, to be sold. The other half split more or less equally into "keep" and "discard." I hauled much of it away yesterday, and just forced myself to think of something else as I chunked it into a large dumpster. 

Getting rid of this stuff ... it's necessary. In fact, it's the only way Kara and I can move forward in all of this. We have to literally let go of the past so that we can move into our future. And it sucks.

Sort of. Because in a lot of ways, it doesn't suck at all. In a lot of ways, it's incredibly liberating. It's freeing. I can feel the weight shucking right off of me.

Whatever doesn't sell in the garage sale will either be donated or thrown out, so it's effectively gone already. Only its corpse remains. Even so, I'm already letting it go. I'm already starting to feel lighter. 

I think part of the reason it's so hard to let go of all of this is because I grew up in a home where you were expected to keep and reuse everything you could. I was raised by my grandparents, for the most part—folks who grew up in the Depression era, and who knew that you had to hold on tight to whatever you had, or you'd lose all of it and never get it back. Seeing so much loss and poverty does something to you. It makes you want to grow bigger. It makes you want to built up walls around all you have and all you are, to build a fort of things and possessions

My grandfather had a rubber band ball the size of my head. It was heavy, and after years of being stored in a tool shed in Texas heat and humidity it was really just a big, gooey, useless ball of decaying rubber. When he died, it was still sitting there, graying from all the dust it was collecting. I think my uncle eventually threw it out. 

That big, gooey mass is a perfect metaphor. It represents the entire idea of holding on to things because you're afraid to let them go. It grows and grows, until it's so big it's actually useless. It decays, and starts to attract filth and dust and bits of debris. And it sits there, heavy and useless, until one day it outlasts you, and someone else has to throw it out.

Kara and i are saying goodbye to a lot of stuff. It's hard, and it hurts. But it's like having surgery to remove a cyst or a tumor. It hurts, but it's good for you. Your health can improve. Your life can resume. Recovery can begin.

This isn't the last time we'll clear out the excess. From the stuff that remains, I expect we'll pull even more junk out to get rid of. It's a process. 

But we're making a good start on minimizing, on trimming down, on lightening the load. We're making a good start on reducing ourselves, so we can fit better into the lives we're building. 

You can't take it with you. 

You shouldn't even try.

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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at


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